Michelle has extensive experience in delivering strategic leadership, client development, and talent management programming. She is deft at implementing change management strategies necessary for comprehensive and effective diversity and inclusion and professional development initiatives and programming. Previously, Michelle practiced law for 14 years where she handled all aspects of employment litigation while serving as an equity partner at a Kansas City-based firm. She focused on matters involving employment discrimination, harassment, and civil rights issues while representing clients before the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as local, state and federal courts.
Later, Michelle spent four years on the senior management team of a premier Am Law 100 law firm as their Director of Strategic Initiatives, spearheading diversity and inclusion strategies and programming for lawyers across nine offices in the United States and Europe.
Michelle is a nationally renowned presenter on professional development, diversity and inclusion issues in the workplace on topics such as, “Engaging Decision-makers and Practice Group Leaders in Diversity and Inclusion Efforts;” “Aligning Associate Competencies and Diversity Principles;” and “Reconciling Diversity, Inclusion & Meritocracy: Challenges & Opportunities.” She has presented before organizations such as the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, the National Association of Legal Professionals, the National Bar Association, the Defense Research Institute, and the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals.
Michelle has been recognized nationally and locally for her many professional contributions. Ingram's magazine selected Michelle as a member of the “40 Under 40 Class of 2005” and in 2007, Michelle received The Daily Record’s Legal Leader of the Year Award. In 2009, Kansas City's Call newspaper recognized Michelle as one of the top 25 most influential African-American Kansas Citians. In 2012, Michelle was awarded the Distinguished Arts and Science Alumni Award from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) and was featured in the inaugural edition of Who’s Who in Black Kansas City. In 2014, the Societas Docta presented Michelle with the “Nefertiti” award for her demonstrated leadership in the Kansas City community. And, in 2016, the National Congress of Black Women recognized Michelle with the Shirley Chisholm Award for her public service. Michelle has also been featured in SAVOY magazine, MultiCultural Law magazine, and The Kansas City Business Journal.
Michelle has spent over 20 years volunteering in the community. She currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of St. Teresa’s Academy where she spearheads the school’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. She was recently elected to UMKC's Board of Trustees. She also chairs the Diversity Committee of St. Peter’s Catholic School. Michelle served as Founding President of the Gifted Hands’ Domestic Violence Prevention Center for Kansas City’s teen girls for seven years. In addition, she has served on the University of Central Missouri’s Board of Governors, UMKC’s Alumni Association Board of Directors where she chaired the Minority Affairs Committee, and the UMKC Arts and Sciences Alumni Board. She was Founding Vice President of KIPP Endeavor Academy, a nationally recognized charter school in Kansas City.
Prior to a career in law, Michelle was an elementary and middle school teacher in Kansas City. She received a B.A. from UMKC and performed graduate work at the University of Seville in Spain and undergraduate work at the University of Xalapa in Veracruz, Mexico. Due to her studies and her extensive legal work in Latin America, she is fluent in Spanish. Michelle earned her law degree, with trial advocacy honors, from Tulane Law School. She is the proud wife of federal district court judge Brian C. Wimes and the mother of three daughters, Sydney, Gabrielle, and Saige.